The Extra Bowl of Ice Cream

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons via Nathan Cooke
Some rights reserved.

Last spring, I wrote this scene in which Declan (a healer) entices Mara (an ex-prostitute and recovering alcoholic) to eat by making ice cream, a rare treat in my medieval-esque world. The ice cream is shared six ways among the three women and the three men of the household, so everyone gets just enough. But when Mara finishes her portion, Declan quietly takes her empty bowl and replaces it with his full one.

After I wrote this, I asked the Lord, bold as brass, "Will you give me an extra bowl of ice cream?"

It wasn't that I didn't have enough. I had Him. But in the midst of sickness, injustice, grief, and loneliness, I wanted assurance that God was kind.

Now, I know "kind" doesn't always mean "nice." God isn't nice. Or safe.

But as Mr. Beaver will tell you, He is good, and that's sort of the same thing.

Rather than immediately serve up my request, God opened my eyes to the ice cream I already had--
a healthy marriage
two sweet ginger kids
toys on the floor
enough to eat
a warm house
hot detox baths
joy in writing
daily grappling matches with an almighty Sovereign
long naps and angel's food in the shade of a broom tree

But just because God didn't immediately answer my prayer the way I wanted Him to doesn't mean He said, "No."

Fast forward seven months...

He places lonely little me in a family of believers, the kind of Christian fellowship I've craved all my life. This family accepts me. God burdens their hearts for my sake, and they, in turn, plead my case before Him. I learn about their personal prayer ministry. I apply. I become their first recipient, and God uses that experience to free me from spiritual bondage I thought I'd never be rid of, to heal me of the emotional damage of the past, and to unravel this crazy illness one symptom at a time. 

I've written about how God healed my hands. Only two weeks later, there's more to report!

On December 3, it was 37 degrees. I experimented with my tolerance to outdoor temps. Here's a summary of how that went:

The video I took this morning...mainly for the entertainment of Madonna Gil and Torey Pop Morgan. You're welcome. ;)
Posted by Melissa Chapman Keaster on Thursday, December 3, 2015
(Hope you enjoyed the up close shot of my nostrils...*face palm*)

Now, 37 degrees is a far cry from 20 degrees, which was the temp the day I first reacted to the cold, but I fully expect to be fine when it gets that cold again. It seems to be what God is doing.

Last week, I woke up at 6am (or earlier) four days in a row and saw Micah off to school each day. Last year, that wouldn't have been physically possible. Even with naps. 

I also ate half a cookie *gasp* from a package. Granted, it was gluten-free and processed in a peanut-free facility, but I'm still calling it a win because my tongue didn't swell, I didn't cough, and my mouth didn't immediately fill with tiny sores. That being said, my original chocolate chip cookie recipe tastes better for anyone who wants to know.

Even with all this momentum, I didn't expect what happened this past Saturday. God's faithfulness was on full display. 

Some of you may know Stan and Stacey Thomason. Brandon and I met them not long after we began going to Crossroads in January 2008. Stacey and I bonded over our love for Jesus and real food, and though circumstances have kept us apart for the past several years, we've stayed in touch. One of the reasons for this is that back in 2009 the Lord gave me a word for her at a Beth Moore conference. 

During worship, God impressed upon my heart that Stacey would one day be a mother and that I needed to tell her. I did not want to do this. For several reasons. 

A) It was the first time God had ever given me a word to tell someone. New territory=lots of doubt and fear.
B) I was unworthy. Back then, I was in the early stages of recovery from a 5 year rebellion against God. Who was I to deliver any kind of message from Him?
C) I knew Stacey's deep desire for a child. I also knew her difficulties in having one. God in heaven, what if I was wrong? 

But somehow, I knew I must speak, as terrified as I was. I turned to her, touched her shoulder, and swallowed. "Stacey, I don't know how or when, but you will be a mother. God wanted me to tell you that."

(For the record: If I'd known then what I know now, I probably would've stated that differently. But there's grace for the young and stupid.)

We waited almost six years. Each time hope glimmered, I rejoiced. With each hope deferred, I grieved. I prayed. And, of course, I wondered if I'd spoken out of turn. What if my words had been for harm?

And then last year about this time, Stacey texted me a photo of an ultrasound. There she was--Miss Rinnah Nalon--growing in her brave birth mother's belly, awaiting the arms of a woman who would love her more than life.

Saturday was the celebration of Rinnah's official adoption.

And as if that wasn't good enough...

We arrived at the start of things. On the way inside, I noticed it was just us and one other family. I looked at the mask in my hand, then up at Brandon. "Mind if I try to go without it?"

He agreed after I promised to put it on the moment I felt myself getting sick. 

That moment never came.

I don't understand. There were candles burning. The scent of perfume wafted to my nose now and again. Two weeks ago, candles and perfume still bothered me. Even when the place began to fill up, I was fine

Before we left, I stole Stacey away into a corner where she and I marveled over God's incredible faithfulness. Brandon captured the moment for me.

How's that for an extra bowl of ice cream?

On the way home from the celebration, I asked Brandon, "Can I try church tomorrow?"

His hand went straight for his heart. 


He agreed. 

The next day, I enjoyed an entire church service MASK-FREE. Nearly three years have passed since the last time that happened. I alternated between tears of joy and ecstatic squeals in Brandon's ear--"I'm doing greeeaat!"

At the end of the service, we took a selfie to commemorate the extra extra bowl of ice cream: 

You are so brave and awesome to put up with my experiments after the horrors you've lived. Thank you, thank you for believing with me. Most men would've left long ago, but you've stayed. Enjoy God's reward, my love, as He restores to us the years the locusts have eaten.

Brandon and I agree. I won't experiment with triggers that have caused shock reactions. That means no pesticides, no peanuts, and no latex. If I'm accidentally exposed to one of these triggers and I'm fine, PRAISE THE LORD, but I won't go looking for trouble.

I'm not completely mask-free yet. I dropped off Sara at dance yesterday without my mask and regretted it. Something (Lysol maybe?) had been recently sprayed in the area. Not fun, but I didn't react as I once would have. Also, freshly mowed grass and gasoline are apparently still problematic. 

But dude! I can go to church without wearing a mask!!!! And I'm going to try Christmas gatherings this year!
"Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness." (Psalm 37:3)
I hope you'll feast with me this Christmas. There's plenty of "ice cream" to go around, even in the darkness of this world. Turn off the news for half a second. Leave the fate of humanity in the hands of our able and almighty God.

Here's a spoon. Dig in!

Sarah's Disaster

Sara is three years old today.


How is she already three? The days, weeks, and months scurry by in a white blur without a proper greeting, and they never stay for tea. Tomorrow is always the most important date. No time to say hello, goodbye. And before I know it, a season's gone.

How is she only three? So much life has been lived. So much new has come into our lives. Surely she is halfway through childhood by now.

But no. She's three--already three, only three.

I tell the kids Micah is the boy I always wanted and Sara is the girl I never knew I needed. But God knew. When I was still a child myself, He whispered her existence into my imagination.

During my homeschool years, I wrote prolifically--for my age, anyway. I followed some kind of curriculum which offered lots of creative writing prompts, and loved every minute. I wrote short stories, sketches, journal entries, plays, and poems. I discovered a few of these assignments when I went through my old keepsake box Dad left for me to go through or toss. Most of the art projects were trashed. I am no artist. But I kept almost everything I wrote. I didn't read it all or even most of it, but one single-paged sketch caught my eye:

It reads:

Sarah, a cute, sweet child of three, loved to help her mother cook. Most of the time she just stirred cake batter and maybe every now and then, her mother would let her crack eggs and drop them in.

Well, one day, when her mother was taking a nap and her father was at work, she decided to make her parents a big [surprise] cake all by herself.

Her mother had always told her to wash her hands before she cooked, so she did. Then, she got out a bowl and the cake mix.

She knew that milk must be put in cake so she dumped 1/4 gallon in the bowl. Then she got out some eggs, cracked them on the side of the bowl, dumped them in, and threw the shells across the room. Last, she put in the chocolate cake batter and then she leaned over and started to stir. Some of her soft, blonde curls got into the chocolate concoction.

She decided the spoon wasn't working [too] well, so she started using her hands and she knocked the bowl over! She put her chocolaty hands to her face and started to cry.

Her mother was awakened, and she got up to see what was wrong. She walked into the kitchen [which] was now covered in chocolate. She looked down at Sarah who was also covered in chocolate. All she could see was Sarah's big brown eyes brimmed with tears. 

She knew this time she would not punish Sarah. 

There is no date on the paper, but judging by the handwriting and style, I wrote it around 1997. I was probably thirteen.

Fourteen years before she was born, I wrote about my daughter.

Guys, it's her! The name is spelled differently, but it's her! Both Saras like to help their mom in the kitchen. Both girls like chocolate, cake, and chocolate cake. Sara is just independent enough to try something like this, and if I wasn't standing over her every moment, real life Sara's baking style would closely resemble shadow Sarah's.

Big brown eyes. Soft, blond curls. I saw her before she was a thought in my mind. She was God's dream before she was mine.

I wanted three boys. Thank God He gave me this extroverted, delightful, hilarious girl!

I'm almost certain the day my immune system shifted was the day I gave birth to her. The labor and delivery was considered to be perfect--no complications--but something went wrong in my body three years ago. I felt it.

 (You can probably see it.)

So it was the day the darkness sniffed me out that God wrote Sara into my story with all the light and laughter she would bring.

God knew I needed her. Our family needed her.

So today, we celebrate our little luminary. We thank God for seeing our need, and sending her to us.

We make chocolate cake! Per her request, of course.

And I ponder the last three years. How full and brief they have been with the little girl I unknowingly penned seventeen years ago.

The Court of Future Crimes: Melissa Keaster vs. The Healer

Note: The following is a short work of fiction, which describes actual events and conversations of real people. If you ask, "Why fiction?," Eleanor Roosevelt aptly explains--


I wipe clammy palms on my navy dress slacks, and will the moisture to return to my mouth. It's no use.

Nerves are abusive little tyrants. They scatter well-studied, organized thoughts. They steal breath from the lungs and imprison the voice. At least I don't have to sing. Breathe. Just breathe.

Black fuzzballs reel across my vision. Am I crazy for doing this? I feel crazy.

The jury walks in and sits. I sense scrutinizing eyes at my back. Yes, I'm crazy. And they'll know it soon enough. 

The Judge walks in, shrouded in black robes, features all obscured. A shiver trickles from my scalp to my knees. I can't see his eyes. His manner is entirely ambivalent.

"All rise! The Court of Future Crimes is now in session. His Imminence is presiding. Be seated."

In a non-committal tone, The Judge says, "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Calling the case of Melissa Keaster versus The Healer. Are both sides ready?"

"Ready, Your Honor." My words come out paper thin as I look into his eyes, wide-open voids of impenetrable darkness.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, 'I AM.'" The Healer's words steady me. I cast my eyes in His direction, and catch His reassuring smile.

I can do this. Even if they think I'm nuts, I can do this.

The jurors are sworn in. I look at whoever will look back steady in the eyes, praying they stand by their word to fairly try the case, to return a true verdict based on the evidence. So help them, God.

It's time for the opening statements. Oh God, help me remember everything. Help me to say it well. 

The Healer mouths from across the too-wide gap between us--"Be brave."

I clear my throat, take a deep breath, and face them. "Your Honor and ladies and gentlemen of the jury: the defendant has been charged with the future crime of divine physical healing of the plaintiff, Melissa Keaster, which is to say--me."

A murmur rustles through the jurors, punctuated by skeptical grunts.

"The evidence will show this healing is foretold by several witnesses through prophetic words and dreams, and is affirmed in the defendant's own written testimony. The evidence will also show no other source can be responsible for this healing."

The Healer stands, and I see Him smile out of the corner of my eye. Pleasure rushes into my chest, washing away the fear. I long to be closer to Him, close enough to touch those love-scarred hands.

"Your Honor and ladies and gentlemen of the jury: the skeptics in this room will presume Me innocent until proven guilty. During this trial, they will doubt the evidence provided against Me. I desire you all to know the truth for the truth will set you free: I AM WHO I AM; I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I WILL HAVE MERCY AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I WILL HAVE COMPASSION. I require neither permission nor understanding to do what I will, not even from the plaintiff."

He turns fully to me now and grins wide. I return His smile, adoration radiating from my face.

"She's got a thing for him from the looks of it," says an old man juror from behind me. I turn and wink. He raises his bushy salt and pepper eyebrows, and purses his lips. I suppress a chuckle.

"The prosecution may call its first witness." The Judge's hollow voice pounds at me like a blunt force instrument.

"I call upon myself."

"Yourself," he repeats incredulously.

"Yes," I say with more assurance than I feel, and climb the stand.

I swear in, state my name, and lick my lips to no avail. My mouth is still too dry.

The jury appears curious. That's good.

"The following is a journal entry in which I explain my feelings regarding a then undiagnosed illness. On October 8, 2012, I wrote: 'I have every reason to believe that I may not make it out of this illness alive, yet the Lord keeps speaking to my soul--'I am willing to make you well.' I believe with all my heart that He will do it. I don't know when or how far down the rabbit hole I must travel, but I believe, Lord! Help my unbelief!'"

Tears leap into my eyes, unbidden. "Your Honor, I would like to have this journal marked as exhibit number one, and ask it be admitted into evidence."

"Does the defense have any objection?" The Judge peers down his nose at The Healer.

He shakes His head. "None at all, Your Honor."

"The journal entry will be admitted as exhibit number one."

Exhibit #1: Journal Entry from 10/8/2012

I continue. "And on October 28, 2012, referencing Mark 1 from The Holy Bible, I wrote: "....A leper came to Jesus, asking Him to heal him, and said, 'If you are willing, you can make me well.' And Jesus replied with a touch, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' When I read those words....I felt the Lord saying, 'I am willing,' words to which I have held fiercely close to my heart as I have worsened and face[d] many dangerous crises in the past few weeks. However, I also felt the Lord impress upon my heart that my healing was not to be a simple touch, but a long, difficult process. 'Hard work' was the phrase He whispered. I am living in this long season of hard work, already exhausted, already depleted, depending moment by moment upon my Savior for the grace and power required for the task at hand. Only because of Christ can I do this. Without Him, this is beyond me. And I am so happy to have His promise that I will live...even on days that I don't want to. As I re-read Mark 1, the Lord gave me a new word from verses 29-31. When Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, He took her by the hand, lifted her up, and she was well--'and she served them.' When the Lord heals me, I am not going to be allowed long to catch my breath. The Spirit use[d] those words to impress upon me that my season of illness will not be followed by a welcome and hoped for season of rest, but a season of service which will likely simultaneously try and fill my soul. I tremble with nervous excitement at this word...."

The second journal entry is made exhibit number two.

 Exhibit #2: Journal Entry from 10/28/12

"On the nights of October 8th and 9th, 2013, two different people who do not know one another had dreams about me, dreams in which I was apparently healed. We will hear from them in a moment. Sometime between October 10, 2013 and September 24, 2014, I forgot both the dreams and my own belief I would be healed.

The reason for this, I believe, is two-fold: On May 27, 2014, I was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Disease at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. There is no cure for Mast Cell Activation Disease, and it can be progressive. The disease also causes other incurable, autoimmune conditions such as fibromyalgia, IBS, and hypothyroidism, all from which I suffer. Moreover, the high risk of anaphylaxsis poses a formidable threat to average life expectancy.

Such a diagnosis is able to erase all hope of healing, but diagnosis isn't the only reason the impressions and dreams were forgotten. During the summer of 2014, in spending copious amounts of time with the defendant, I--the plaintiff--became so happy I no longer cared whether or not I would be physically healed. I rejoiced in the healings of others with only brief twinges of wist when I considered the absence of my own.

For months, I've managed my disease very well with a combination of excellent diet, detox routines, acupressure treatments, rest, stress management, medication, essential oils, and positive thoughts. Things are going well though symptoms are still prevalent and sometimes severe. Even if I continue in my efforts faithfully for years, I don't believe they can achieve full healing for me.

On Sunday, September 21, 2014, I told two people I didn't think the defendant would heal me. I believed He had other plans.

On Wednesday, September 24, 2014, Melissa Rogers, a friend of uncanny similarities to myself, who I met through very unlikely circumstances and who had just experienced a miracle of her own, shared with me a prophetic word: '[The Healer] loves you; He has healed you.'

I prayed sincerely over these words in order to discern their meaning and veracity. I was met with assurance from multiple sources outside of myself that I'd indeed be physically healed in addition to the spiritual and emotional healing which has already taken place. Only then did I remember the former impressions, words, and dreams, and I fully believe the defendant is guilty of the future healing of my body!"

By the end of this speech, I am standing. A fire smolders in my bones. Whispers swirl all about the room.

The Judge's gavel slams into the block. "Order in the courtroom!"

I stare at The Healer, breathless. His eyes are fiercely proud.

"Does the defense have any questions?"

The Healer stands. "Do you trust me, Melissa?"

"Yes," I say.

"Why?" His voice is so gentle, I could fluff it like a pillow and rest my head there.

"Because you loved me when I was unlovable. When I hated you, you died to save my life."

"And is it not I who holds your very breath in my hands and owns all your ways?"

"Only you."

"Do I not have a right to allow pain in your life?"

"You do."

"Do I not have a right to send healing now? Even if you can no longer imagine a life without disease?"

"Yes." The word chokes on a muted sob.

I'm excused. The Healer extends a handkerchief to me as I pass Him on the way back to my seat.

I call Lyndsey Floyd Mouk to the stand. Lyndsey is a friend from college, a friend I haven't seen much of since college. She shares her dream from October 8, 2013--"[Melissa] was somewhere with a bunch of people and [was] holding and smelling a wildflower."

Mary Fran Stark, a friend several years my senior who I haven't seen since childhood, shares the dream she had the night of October 9, 2013: "I don't remember what [the dream] was about, but there were several people at your house and lots of kids."

I take the stand again.

"It should be noted," I say to the jury, "I strictly avoid crowds to prevent acute episodes in my illness, and I would never purposefully smell any flower due to the risk of mast cell degranulation. Thus, images of me standing in the midst of crowds and sniffing flowers indicates wellness. It should also be noted Lyndsey and Mary Fran do not know one another, and neither knew of the other's dream. Lyndsey shared her dream first through private message on Facebook. Mary Fran shared her dream the following day via status 'comment' on Facebook."

The Healer listens quietly through it all. His eyes twinkle as Melissa Rogers takes the stand.

Melissa shares pieces of our conversation, which took place on Wednesday, September 24, 2014, between the hours of 10:53a.m. and 12:22p.m. There are many details, but one central message: "He has healed you."

The Healer touches Melissa as she passes Him on her way out of the courtroom. Joy wells in my heart as I consider the vastness of His love. He loves each of us as if we're the only one in the universe, and He loves us both. She and I are both 'His Melissa.'

With a contented sigh, I call an expert witness.

I ask him, "How do you explain the present perfect tense of the declaration, 'He has healed you?' I currently suffer from symptoms."

Even now, there's a migraine lodged behind my right eye.

The man adjusts his horn-rimmed glasses excitedly, and explains, "Present and present perfect tenses are both commonly used in biblical prophecy. We find an example of present perfect tense in Isaiah 9:2--'The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.' Scholars agree this prophecy refers to the birth of Jesus Christ, which occurred 700 years after the prophecy was written. We find explanation for this phenomenon in Psalm 119:89--'Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven,' meaning when God makes a promise, it's as good as done. Yahweh operates outside of time and space. He can do this because He created time and space. He is God. He sees the end from the beginning, and has ordered all things from the outset."

The Judge pulls and tucks his robes as if worried his skin is showing. I bow my head to hide my smirk, and sense The Healer's full-out grin.

Finally, the stand holds The Healer himself. He gives a brief testimony before I question Him. "All things work together for good to those who love Me, to those who are called according to My purpose."

My cells respond to the truth of His word.

I approach the stand and wonder--how many times have we reasoned together like this, staring into the face of the other, reveling in soul secrets and silent communication?

"Will you please tell the court who you are?"

"I AM."

My knees tend to buckle at this answer no matter how many times I hear it. One of the jurors experiences a similar effect, and falls out of her seat.

"What is your occupation?"

That smile again. The light of it shines so brilliantly the intimidation of The Judge is utterly forgotten. "Love. Life. Freedom. Peace. Abundance. Joy. Glory."

"Where do you reside?"

"Everywhere. I dwell between galaxies, and know motivations hidden from your own consciousness."

"What do you know of the human body?"

"Everything," He laughs. "I designed it."

"Will you please share with the court some of your well-known experiences with healing?"

He shrugs. "Sure--the leper in Galilee--the one you mentioned in your journal entry, actually. The centurion's servant. The blind man in Jerusalem. Jairus' daughter. The woman with the bleeding issue--the one you relate to so well."

"Are you experienced in healing incurable diseases?"

"I heal everything from terminal cancer to explosive tempers, from lost causes to wandering souls."

I bring an open Bible to the stand. "Is this your written testimony?"

Exhibit #3: Isaiah 58:6-9

"It is."

"Would you say my illness has been 'a fast of your choosing?'"

"Have you been hungry and shared your bread? Have you shown castaways hospitality of soul? Have you clothed the naked, prayed the bound go free and the wicked be saved?"

The Judge checks The Healer. "The witness will not question the prosecution." But the reprimand is lost on our ears.

I swallow hard. We look into one another so intensely we forget where we are and what we're doing. We forget the world.

I answer Him with the look. The answer is for Him only. The jury need not know.

The Judge suspiciously forgets the original question, and doesn't bring it up again. Neither do I.

"No further questions, Your Honor."

An unknown voice sounds at the back of the room. "Are you sure?"

When The Judge does nothing to resume order, I turn. A man dressed in a perfectly tailored suit with shiny Berluti shoes and slicked-back hair slinks near the door. I don't recognize his face, but there's a familiar quality to his movement.

"Yes. Why?" I ask him

"Exactly," he replies, eyes gleaming.

I turn again to The Judge with an unspoken plea. He stares back insipidly, waiting for the scene to unfold.

The stranger sidles closer, and the scent of overly-sweet cologne wafts in my direction, cloying my senses. I choke and gasp and know--I have smelled his foul odor before.

"You won't ask for a sign? You won't ask the age-old question?" His lips curl up in a Cheshire cat grin. The effect is unnerving. I hold back a shudder and narrow my eyes in defiance.

"Come on--you know you want to ask," he hisses, inspecting his perfectly manicured hands.

My stomach turns, and I bristle. "If you are referring to The Question, I've already asked. Many times over. As for a sign, it would be ungenerous to ask for more than He's already given."

Sinister eyes swing sharp to meet mine. The man speaks slowly. "The jury might appreciate the answer, Melissa. Don't you hear it in their sighs? Why? Why? Why?"

Silence falls. The Judge and jury lean forward, chairs creaking, pressing me to ask.

There's no problem with The Question when honestly presented, but it isn't relevant to the case. I bite my lip. Accusation and curiosity burns in the jury's eyes, I see it. The Healer does, too.

The well-dressed man grips my arm. I attempt to pull away without success, and cry out. The atmosphere shifts at once. The Healer's eyes flash fire, and I'm suddenly released.

I know what comes. I brace myself.

The Healer stands to full height and thunders, "Who is this who darkens counsel with words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding--who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Have you commanded the morning since your days began? The dawn knows its place. Do you?"

Everyone cowers in their chairs, hiding from the whirlwind. At once, I long to kiss the floor with my brow and stand so close to the rush I feel my stomach drop.

I've heard His answer before, of course. One isn't desperately ill for more than two years without asking The Question.

And this is the way He always answers--with questions of His own. Questions which plumb the depths of the soul and expose all its secrets. They wrecked me, His questions. I'll never forget how they bashed me to pieces, repaired me, and set me to sail again on the feral ocean of divine sovereignty.

The once bitter waters are now impossibly sweet. I've learned to love His scary side.

The well-dressed man retreats. Even The Judge shows signs of life--or rather, surrender--as he squirms in his seat. The hall is silent again.

The Healer still stands, chest heaving and nostrils flared. His zeal is beautiful to me.

Eager to move the case along, The Judge clears his throat and addresses the jury. "Ladies and gentlemen, the prosecution must convince you of three things in order to find the defendant guilty of the future crime of divine physical healing: First, that the defendant has confirmed through His own testimony and the witness of others He will indeed heal Melissa Keaster of Mast Cell Activation Disease. Second, that the disease cannot be healed by any means short of a divine miracle. Third, that He indeed has the power to heal incurable disease."

The jury nods their understanding, but few are convinced. Caution emanates from their furrowed brows.

"Are you ready with final arguments?" The Judge asks.

No, I think.

But The Healer stands next to me now, holding my hand. Sensing my fear, He kisses my ear and whispers, "Those who wait for Me are never ashamed."

My words are tremulous and thick with tears. "Yes, Your Honor."

I face the jury once more. Believe with me.

I exhale hard. "Your Honor and ladies and gentlemen of the jury: The Judge has told you I must convince you of three points. The truth is...I can't."

Their dubious faces almost make me lose my nerve. I spur myself on--for them! For Him!

"We're dealing with the supernatural here, which means we're dealing with faith. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, but these are things not yet seen. I lack rock hard evidence. I have nothing to offer you beyond the testimonies you heard today," I tell them, extending my empty hands and earnest eyes.

"My sincerest desire is for you to believe--not only in a miracle that hasn't yet taken place, but a Person--a Person wise enough to send a debilitating illness into my life, a Person powerful enough to take it away, and a Person good enough to stand with me through it all."

Pointing to The Judge, I continue, "Only he can verify or falsify prophetic claims, and he cares little how these proceedings turn out. I pray you care--not only for me but for yourselves! Have we become so jaded we no longer believe in miracles? I tell you--they happen every day for anyone with seeing eyes."

My gaze drifts over each face, and I know--they definitely think I'm crazy. And so I am.

"Please don't miss this." Tears cascade down my face, and for a moment, I cannot speak. The room waits on bated breath in order to hear what the crazy lady will say next.

Suddenly, the fire reignites my bones. The tears fall still, but my energies crescendo. "Go on, find Him guilty. Find Him guilty, and sentence Him to the exaltation and glory He deserves. Sentence Him to your own belief--to your own salvation. In sickness and in health, in death and in life, He is worthy to receive blessing and honor and glory and power forever!"

"She definitely has a thing for him," comes the loud observation from the old man juror who spoke before. "And you know what? I think the feeling's mutual."

The Healer says nothing in closing. He just kisses my forehead, and lets me dry my tears on His chest.

I wait trembling in His arms for The Judge to prove or disprove His crime. I'm afraid I look like a fool before them all. I'm afraid my soul will doubt if The Judge tarries. He sits so serene, so enigmatic without any concern at all for me.

He thinks he holds the power now, but I know better. I know the One whom I have believed--The Beginning and The End. The arms that hold me are everlasting. Right or wrong, they'll never let me go.

I plant a kiss upon His shoulder as I wonder--what will the jury decide?

Weight: Part 4 of 4--Concerning Death and Dreams

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory . . . . " --2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Have you ever thought about what the glory of God must be like? Paul describes it here in a physical sense. He describes it as heavy, far heavier than any pressure we can experience in this life. I imagine it to be unbearable, a pleasure so strong that it's excruciating. Even believers, being redeemed by Christ's blood, cannot look into the face of God and live. It would entirely sweep us away. So how will we be prepared to enjoy an encounter with a power beyond anything we can comprehend or stand . . . even in the next life? Hopefully, we will be given the great honor of experiencing the excruciating glory of God in life through the excruciating experience of suffering.

You may ask, "Why on earth would anyone hope to experience suffering?" That's a good question. In his book, Don't Waste Your Life, John Piper answers this way--

" . . . suffering with Jesus on the Calvary road of love is not merely the result of magnifying Christ; it is also the means. He is made supreme when we are so satisfied in him that we can 'let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also' and suffer for the sake of love. His beauty shines most brightly when treasured above health and wealth and life itself. He knew that suffering (whether small discomforts or dreadful torture) would be the path in this age for making him most visibly supreme. That is why he calls us to this. He loves us. And love does not mean making much of us or making life easy. It means making us able to enjoy making much of him forever--no matter what it costs." (p. 61-62)

As a long-distance runner begins by running short distances before running a marathon and as a body-builder must begin by lifting light weights before he becomes a champion, we are given a shadow of a taste of the exceeding weight of glory we will experience in eternity by walking with Jesus on the Calvary road of suffering in this life. We are building the muscle, if you will, that we need to bear this unbearable weight of glory,"to enjoy making much of him forever," which is what heaven is really all about. We should hope to suffer with Jesus so we can hope to enjoy the sensation of being knocked flat on our faces before an eternal, all-powerful God.

Of course, it is not natural for man to hope to suffer, but suffering comes in a fallen world whether or not we hope for it. Suffering will come, and when it does, we can either embitter ourselves against a holy, loving God, which is the natural bent of man, or we can lean into Him with all of our might, which is supernatural--the work of God in us. When we lean into Him rather than "jerking away" (if you are confused by the quotations here, read Part 1), He gives us everything we could possibly need. We, like the Apostle Paul, can live "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything" (2 Corinthians 6:10).

But what do I know of this? Honestly, not much. But I do have a story to tell about the small portion of the Calvary road I have walked.

Those of you who know me personally are privy to the fact that I am basically allergic to the world in which I live. I have the normal allergies to grasses, pollens, molds and dust mites that a lot of people have, but I have several strange and obscure allergies, too--wheat, tree nuts, soy, dairy, corn, watermelon, kiwi, tapioca starch, guar gum, xanthum gum, teff flour (an encounter that negatively affected my health for the greater part of 2011), and pretty much all grains with the exception of rice. I bet you haven't even heard of some of that stuff, much less would know how to avoid it. When most people think of allergies, they think of stuffy or runny noses, coughing, watery and itchy eyes, etc. My allergies are more of the hives, full-body itching, hot flashing, inability to breathe variety, especially when it comes to wheat, nuts and certain types of grass. I've carried an Epi-Pen for 5 years now, and I know how to use it.

I wasn't born like this. I was born with allergies, sure, but not with this excessively long list of food allergies. When I was 20 years old, I began to react to one food right after the other. I had to completely change the way I ate and lived. I made several mistakes while I was learning, and these mistakes weren't very forgiving. Benadryl has been a life-saver multiple times. I've been known to drink a significant portion of Children's Benadryl to avoid using my Epi-Pen so I could thereby avoid the hospital. An account of my closest brush with death can be found here.

I had gotten pretty good at protecting myself. I had learned which foods were safe at which restaurants. I had learned not to eat at social functions. I had learned not to even have wheat flour in the house. My last severe mistake was in January 2011. I was doing pretty darn good. And then, a new allergen presented itself.

I can't know for sure, but I think the first severe manifestation of this new allergy occurred during labor. I believe the reaction I suffered after being given my epidural was my first big reaction to sulfa/sulphites. Some of you may know that sulphites can be found in wine, which is easy enough to live without, and sulfa is easily enough avoided if you have a sharp doctor and pharmacist (which I have). But as the most extraordinary thing about me is the extraordinary way I react to allergens, I have proven to be far more sensitive to the stuff than others I know who share this allergy.

One Friday in January, in the midst of Sara's bout with RSV, I had an unique opportunity to do some pampering. Brandon had taken Micah out of the house. Sara was sleeping soundly in her swing. I took a long, hot shower, and then decided to use a facial mask I had been wanting try out. I caked it on, nice and thick, not bothering to be conservative with my use. When I had my face and neck covered, my skin began to tingle. I thought it was probably normal, just an effect of the mask. Then, my skin began to burn unpleasantly. Hmmm . . . . I didn't think a mask should burn. And then, I couldn't get the thing off fast enough. I scrubbed quickly, my face and neck feeling like they had been splashed with acid. When I got all of it off, I kept dousing my face with cold water. It didn't help. I applied a facial lotion, aloe vera gel, a calming lotion . . . nothing was easing the burning sensation. I did finally read that the facial mask contained sulfur, and decided to take a couple of Benadryl tablets for good measure. A few minutes later, I noticed that my chest was tightening and my tongue was swelling. The Benadryl wasn't working! After quickly checking with my Aunt Suzonne who is a nurse, I took 50mg more Benadryl. The next step was my Epi Pen, and I had no one but a dependent infant within half an hour of me to haul my butt to the hospital. God heard my pleas, and the 100mg of Benadryl in my system eased my breathing and reduced the size of my tongue.

This incident was the first time I found that I could not make skin contact with the allergen at hand. I can make my son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with whole wheat bread, but the sulfa cream prescribed for Sara's diaper rash proved to be life threatening. I wore protective gloves, and still had a violent reaction while using it. I'm using cloth diapers with cloth liners for Sara. The other day, I saw a clean cloth liner on the floor in the laundry room. I picked it up, and threw it in the laundry basket with the other clean cloths. It had been contaminated with the sulfa cream, but it had been washed and dried. The single second that my fingertips touched the liner was enough contact to tighten my airways. That's it! A second. And then, there is the extensive list of foods and pharmaceutical drugs I must completely avoid. I had only thought that learning to live without wheat was difficult. I hate to use words like this, but avoiding everything I must in order to live safely is going to be impossible. The list is far too long with far too many possibilities for error to avoid everything completely. I must read every label of everything I put into my mouth or touch. If I eat food someone else has prepared for me, I'll be taking a major risk. A night out on the town could easily prove to be the last night of my life. That sounds dramatic and ridiculous, especially to me who prefers to avoid the dramatic and ridiculous outside of books and off the stage, but it's true. This is my new reality. And to be honest, for the first time in my allergic life, I am terrified.

I have begun to understand that my life is in danger. This one is bad. My dreams of raising my children and having a long, full life with my husband are under terrible threat. I look into the faces of my babies and begin to cry because I'm afraid I won't be allowed to look at them long enough to satisfy me. My soul tears in two when I think of the worst. My children need me. No one else can love them like I do. When Brandon talks of the future, I feel uncomfortable because I know that I might not be in it. These are the best years of my life. I don't want to die.

It was with these thoughts I went to bed the night I reacted to the sulfa cream while wearing my protective gloves. I was awash in despair. I prayed and cried myself to sleep that night, hugging Sara tighter to my chest than usual. And that night, God gave me a dream. Before I relate the dream, I want you to understand that I am not special in any way. I have never before been given a dream, much less the ability to understand it. Normally, I'm just like everyone else and I just have dreams, but this one was different.

The dream began with unimportant prologue. All I can remember early in the dream is that I was running from something, but I didn't know what it was. The important part of the dream began with me, hiding in a safe house, with white, blank walls and empty spaces. I had two protectors with me--one felt like Brandon, the other felt much less important, but the faces were hazy. I was getting dressed for some unknown reason. I wasn't going anywhere, but I was looking especially pretty. I was sitting on a bed, putting on a pair of red ballet flats when two figures passed by an open window outside the next room, into which I could clearly see. I saw one of the figures stop abruptly. I'm not sure how, but I knew that he had smelled me. He turned to face me through the window. I can't quite say that we made eye contact because he didn't have eyes, but we were trapped in each other's gaze nonetheless. He was huge, a towering giant of a man. But he wasn't a man. His head was like that of a bison or a wildebeest or something of that nature. (Think The Chronicles of Narnia here, but we aren't talking about a good animal.) He was dressed in all black, and he radiated all things terrible. He left the space of the open window, and I knew he was coming for me. My protectors knew he was coming, too. The one who did not feel like Brandon ran to the front door. He tried to stop him, but after The Beast knocked down the door, he flung my first protector aside as if he were nothing at all. His footsteps thundered slow and deliberate toward me. The Brandon-ish protector said, "Don't be afraid. I'll protect you." I believed he would try. I just didn't believe that he actually could. The Beast now stood before me. I was on the ground, scooting away from him in fear. I was covered in a cold sweat. He raised his huge fist into the air. I knew he was about to deliver a blow, and when he did, it would kill me. I was seconds from my death, and the protector in the room with me would only be able to stand there and watch. As the creature's fist swung toward me, a magical, blue force field appeared out of nowhere in front of me, deflecting The Beast's blow entirely. The Beast stared without eyes at the force field in a wild rage. Suddenly powerless to hurt me, he walked back to the broken front door. Before he walked out, he turned back and caught me once again in his cruel gaze. He did not speak, but his message was burned into my brain--"You escaped this time, but I'll be back again and again until I get you." With that, he left. I realized that I was no longer safe, even in hiding. I decided to leave my safe house. I was leaving my protectors behind, and about to walk as far I could into the wide, open horizon that stretched before me, but my protectors followed. One plead, "Let us go with you! We will find a way to protect you." I said, "No. No one can protect me." The protector replied, "What about the force field?"

I gave some response that is muddy in my brain because this is the point at which I began to wake up.

Later that morning, I couldn't get the dream off of my brain. I was consumed with morbid thoughts, taking the dream as a bad omen--an omen that meant I didn't have many days left. But in my sadness, I reached out to the Lord. I prayed. I combated fear with scripture I had memorized. I worshiped. As I did these things, God impressed upon my spirit that I needed to write out the dream in my journal.

I put Micah down for his nap, and I did so. As I wrote out the dream, God gave me its meaning!

I looked pretty in the dream because the time frame represented the best years of my life---the years I'm living now. I was in a safe house because I was trying to hide away, but the blank walls spoke of an empty life. My two protectors were Benadryl and Epi Pen. The one that felt like Brandon was the Epi Pen. These protectors are ultimately unable to protect my life. The Beast figure is, of course, death. Death is pursuing me. It is coming after me. It won't stop. It will smell me out again and again and again. But as the protector asked, "What about the blue force field?" Well, it was God. God turned death away. He turned it away because He, and no one else, gets to decide the number of my days.

After the dream interpretation, this is what I recorded in my journal:

"'He knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever.' --Psalm 37:18

[God] can turn away death or send it at His will. I have not been given the knowledge of my life's length. Each breath is a gift from the Lord, and I am as likely to die in a car crash as I am of anaphylaxis. Just because I am weaker than the next person doesn't mean that my life will be shorter. I am weak because God wants me to know that His grace is sufficient for me; His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So, I can boast gladly in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest on me.

And there is the possibility that I could die. Soon. From a reaction. From an accident. From a murder, even. And what of it?

'Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?' --Job 2:10

And what about this?: 'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.' --Romans 8:28

If this verse is true, it must also be true that for the Christian, death is good.

'For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.'--Philippians 1:21-23

So why the fear? Why the heartbreak? Why the agony of feeling my chest ripped open at the thought of dying? It's because I don't want to leave my man. It's because I want to raise my kids. It's because I am convinced that no one can love them like I can. Because I want to witness their lives in all their stages. Mostly, it's that I know I can never drink in enough of their sweet, baby faces to ever be satisfied. But why do I think Jesus' face would be any less sweet? His would be 1,000 times sweeter! Why do I think no one else could care for my little loves like me? Jesus cares 1,000 times more than I ever could! A long life with my husband would be a grand gift, but nothing compared to the eternity I will have with my Ultimate Groom.

This dream is not to be a thing that haunts me, although it will. It is a reminder of who is really in control of my destiny. It is a reminder that each breath is a gift. It is a reminder that death, though scary, is gain. So, let The Beast find me, again and again and again. I won't be leaving this earth until God's preordained time, and then I will be with Him, safe and completely satisfied in Him.

Funny, I guess, that I just wrote the ending to my dream--I am going to live my life, not in fear or in hiding, but out in the open and full to the hilt until the blue force fields come to my rescue no more, and I wake from death's final blow in the arms of my Savior."

I ended my entry here.

Here's the thing--we all live in a place of uncertainty. I'm just hyper-aware of that fact right now. Sometimes, while I'm holding Sara or playing with Micah or kissing Brandon, I take a deep drag of oxygen, and silently thank God for that one, special breath. I take a little more joy in the fact that I have almost no alone time because who would want to spend their last day or moment alone? I'm enjoying one on one time with my children more because I feel the pressure of getting the housework done much less. I'm leaning on God moment by moment, because in reality, He orders their number anyway. I have nothing to fear because nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:38-39), not allergens, not anaphylaxsis, not pain, not car crashes, not murder, not anything. And I can fulfill my purpose in life or death.

The purpose for my existence is to be glad in God and help as many others to be glad in God as possible. I hope this post encourages you in some way toward that gladness, the greatest gladness to be had in this life and the next. To know that gladness, you have to know my Jesus, and the only way to do that is to accept Him for who He says He is--He claimed to be the God of the Universe and the, meaning the only, Savior of our souls. He is not merely a good teacher. He is more! It comes down to this--believing Jesus, which is the only faith that has any value. If you can't believe this, but want to, don't worry. You don't have to contrive faith of your own, on your own. Faith is a gift! Ask God for it, and He will give it to you! If you have any questions about a life lived for Jesus, I want to talk to you. Email me at We'll talk.

If you have a relationship with Christ, but aren't in a place where death seems to be gain, that's also okay. I have some recommended reading for you:

1) The Gospels of The Bible. Jesus is the key to death being gain. Start there, then move to the letters of Paul. The Apostle and Saint understood what it meant for death to be gain more than anyone else ever has.

2) Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper.

3) King's Cross by Timothy Keller.

These books have been great encouragements to me in the last few months through trial after trial.

Let me tell you this--it is a struggle to stay in the mindset of death being gain. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. The devil loves to come around, stirring up fear and anxiety when he can, so I need your prayers. Please pray for my peace, first and foremost. I also need God's protection as I navigate this major life change. I cannot avoid every mistake, but it would be nice to avoid some.

Also, I am not suicidal. If you see me out cold on the pavement and not breathing, please find my mini purse inside my diaper bag at the top, get out my Epi Pen and stab me in the leg. Do it for me, for my husband and for my kids. Thank you.

Finally, I want you to know that as bad as this is (and everything else in the last three months has been), I am thankful that this bad thing has happened. It is being worked for my eternal good and hopefully, for the eternal good of others, as well. This horrible, scary, light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. And that is a very, very good thing.